As I’ve progressed through my rehab journey I’ve noticed that opportunities for growth in infinite ways are everywhere. Our relationships with people are a constant lesson in the betterment of our people skills, and when we’re lucky, personal growth as well when we recognize beauty in others that we still have yet to develop. Books, especially fiction, are always explorations into the human condition and psyche, and in reading about these fictional characters we learn from them as well. Non-fiction books often explain things out of an expertise that we as laymen lack, and in reading them, we learn about something new. I find the same to be true with television and any other form of entertainment that exists. The chance to grow and learn is truly limitless, and I find this to be true especially in the field of rehab.
Almost every children’s toy requires motor skills — that is, after all, what all children are learning in their day-to-day existence, so go to Toys “R” Us. Pick up a puzzle or a game. If your motor skills aren’t doing that well yet, start with the “youngest” toys, for little ones that still lack most fine motor skills. Work your way up to the toddler toys and eventually older-kid toys.
I may be biting off more than I can chew at the moment, but lately I’ve been challenging myself (read: ripping out my own hair) with a supposedly “for ages 10+” clear 3-D puzzle of a rose — honestly, it’s tough even for someone of my age (mm . . . 10 x 2.6?) and even other adults I’ve asked to help me figure it out have remained fairly stumped. In any case, if and when I finally put it together I will show you all the finished project. (I tried to find an image of it, but apparently none exist in the vortex of the World Wide Web.)
Besides kiddy toys, just scan the area around you and notice all the potential for motor training there is just scattered about your own home. That spray bottle for watering the plants or punishing the dog or cat could be spritzed with your “bad” grip, couldn’t it? The cloth napkins could be folded bimanually, as could all your laundry.
There is truly very little around us that requires only one hand. Off the top of my head, I can only think of writing and perhaps waving hello or goodbye that don’t enlist the participation of both hands. Over time, your non-use of the affected hand becomes learned, and it’s tough to remind yourself to use it again. To conquer that, I recommend CIMT. (But to do CIMT requires a minimum baseline of motor function, so I’d discuss it with an OT before taking it on.) The forced use aspect really does increase your awareness of the arm/hand and reminds you that it’s there, so you’ll be less likely to just lay it somewhere, useless and curling.
A good way to engage your hands into doing things together is to go back to trying what you used to love doing. The more interest you have in the activity, the more likely you are to do it. That’s why there are labs and retrievers at rehab hospitals to encourage people to go on walks. And why they’ve developed “Wiihabilitation” (I’ll post something on that soon). And don’t get hung up if you don’t do whatever it is as well as you used to; your brain will rewire the attempt anyway, as it records anything you do or think repeatedly. The awesome part about rehab and healing is that the neural connections are being made regardless of how much you’re paying attention while you’re doing something. Leave it to the noggin to help you get better on autopilot; the key is simply to keep on taking action.
It’s also a great idea to write out a list of things you’d like to get back to doing. We’ll declare these goals, and depending on how large they are, you can later categorize them into smaller steps (i.e., picking up a bottle cap) and larger ones (screwing it on the bottle with good form). Cross them out as you achieve them. It may seem like eons away now, but once you get there (and you will) you’ll be glad you did. Celebrate these achievements with those you love, because it’s a big deal!
Never take your eyes off the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, cuz that’s the best of them all. 😀
To our healing,